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  • Jakob Reid

Why the European Left needs to unite

By Jakob Reid

Throughout history, there has always been an apparent fragmentation within the left, but within the right, despite disagreements, common ground has always been clear. So when former French Presidential candidate and current parliamentary leader of the National Rally in France, Marine Le Pen, calls for a super coalition of right-wing parties in the European Parliament, to influence wider European politics after the upcoming European elections, my ears certainly prick up. I believe it is clearly in the long-term political interests of the European left to seek closer working to counter any nationalist right grouping, that could deeply destabilise the wider European project, merely giving more power to those fundamentally opposed to the EU altogether.

In an article for the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, Le Pen claimed the time is now to “unite” similar nationalist right parties, with the possibility of any new coalition becoming the second largest group in the European Parliament. This comes at a time that European politics is deeply split, with European parties of the centre-left reasserting their view that they would not endorse the incumbent Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, for a second term, if she sought or received the backing of right-wing parties. One Green MEP, Terry Reintke, chair of the Green group, claimed they could never support a second von der Leyen term if she worked with the nationalist right.

One of the right-wing parties mentioned, and one that Le Pen mentioned, was the Brothers of Italy, currently the governing party of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni. However, the issue with this is that Meloni’s party currently sits in a different European parliamentary grouping, the ECR. Le Pen’s group, the ID, is seen as more radical, however on many issues, the two groups agree. The issues include immigration and the rolling back of green regulations, however on the issue of Ukraine, they are split. Regardless of this though, the apparent ascension of Hungarian party Fidesz to the ECR, a closer coalition could be possible, with Orbán as a possible kingmaker.

Whether or not any coalition does emerge, which could possibly earn them around 20% of seats in the European Parliament, as suggested by a recent poll in Germany, giving them a powerful position in the Parliament. In particular over von der Leyen’s main backers, the EPP, the centre-right grouping, I would suggest this initiative should prompt a response from the left. With many claiming the far-right is set to make huge gains, I believe it is in the European left’s interests to seek closer cooperation to counter this. 

"So, it appears for left-wing parties, at least on an ideological level, a coalition of these groups appears necessary regardless of whether the nationalist right centralises its influences in the EU."

I would say there are two main reasons for this. The first of course is ideological. I am sure leading figures of the various centre-left and left-wing groupings in the European Parliament, do have a shared interest to keep figures like Le Pen out of influencing wider EU policy, in particular during the times of uncertainty European nations are facing. In addition to this, for parties like the Liberals and Greens, who are likely to lose seats to the nationalist right, whilst the S&D and EPP’s tallies largely remain the same, also have an interest for closer cooperation, even on just basic issues, in one sense to preserve their own political stock, but also to preserve the wider European left. 

Two of these issues are the European climate framework targets, and wider promotion of the rule of law across European Union countries. Should the EPP give ground to any new nationalist right grouping, it appears that the EU’s flagship Green Deal climate policy, which has a goal of net zero by 2050, could be at stake, with many of these right-wing parties seeking to push the Commission into eroding its own commitment to renewable energy development. As well the climate, also there is the issue of migration, with a more right-wing European Commission potentially seeking a further abandonment of a welcoming approach to refugees.

So, it appears for left-wing parties, at least on an ideological level, a coalition of these groups appears necessary regardless of whether the nationalist right centralises its influences in the EU. As well as this though is the basic question of numbers. To pursue more progressive policies and directives, you need the numbers. It is obvious that when left-wing parties form a coalition, they can pool their votes and resources, thereby increasing their overall electoral strength. This enhances their ability to win more seats in parliament and exert greater influence in policy making.

The current groups to be considered of the “centre-left” to “left”, I would say are the S&D, the Greens/EFA and the left-wing grouping called “The Left”. In the current parliament, these parties together hold 255 out of the 720 seats, larger than any other single grouping. Whilst many would suggest not including The Left in any coalition and favouring the Renew liberal group, I would point to the current situation in Germany, with the “traffic light” coalition led by Chancellor Scholz, suffering deep splits over economic policy, merely giving nationalist right groups like the AfD, more political power

So, on a purely statistical level, it is apparent that a coalition of left-minded parties could be the solution to countering the rise of the nationalist right across the European Union. Whilst the final decisions and structures won’t come until later on this month, it is incumbent upon left-wing parties, that in order to push for and achieve genuine progressive policies, enabling the EU to become a progressive socially democratic institution, to seek closer working relations after the June elections, be for individual interests of preservation, or for the wider preservation of the European left project altogether, one that is being slowly eaten away at by those on the right.

Image: Flickr / European Parliament



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